Stone Wings blog has walked and traced the route of the Lovecraft/Eddy Sunday 4th November 1923 expedition to find the notorious Dark Swamp in western Rhode Island, and reports with fine photographs. Dark Swamp was never actually reached by Lovecraft that day, although he and his “newly adoped son” C.M. Eddy hoped for another trip in summer 1924 that seemingly never happened…
“We now know how to reach the swamp most expeditiously, and will not again lose time in devious inquiries. It will be a pleasing day’s trip, and even tho’ we discover no unsuspected horror, we shall surely behold enough of the darkly picturesque to furnish out a dozen tales apiece.” (Selected Letters I, pp.264-67).
Their not reaching the swamp was probably just as well. Since it reputedly had many snakes, sump pools, and morasses, and was probably filled to brimming by the heavy October rains of that year.
Back in 2001 The Cthulhu Prayer Society (Newsletter, 11th Nov 2001) also followed the route of the walk to Dark Swamp. Jarett Kobek actually made it into part of the Dark Swamp and has online photos of White’s Pond and also part of the swamp.
The swamp had been penetrated by several naturalists early in the 20th century…
“Howard W. Preston, whose Botanical Notebook for the years 1877-1919 awaits and deserves publication, recorded his search for rhododendron in Dark Swamp, Glocester, Rhode Island by the Willie Woodhead Road.” (The Bulletin of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, 1966).
“As early as 1911, Fred Barnes served as a guide into the Dark Swamp in West Glocester for a research group from Brown University” (Glocester, the way up country: a history, guide and directory, 1976).
The swamp was/is not far from Chepachet, the north part of the road from Chepachet to Pascoag being of course the setting for the opening of Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”. That was where Malone recoils in horror at reaching the junction and unexpectedly seeing buildings not unlike New York tenements in style. Such buildings can still be seen at that Pascoag junction, using Google StreetView, although they are on the right rather than the left turn. Lovecraft had been for another ramble in this area with Morton, a little earlier in 1923, in search of Durfee Hill (one miles east of the swamp, and Rhode Island’s second highest point), and so it’s possible he may have walked the same stretch of road that appears in “The Horror at Red Hook”.
According to S.T. Joshi’s I Am Providence, the visit to Dark Swamp was also recorded by Lovecraft in a letter to Edwin Baird. But I’m not sure where that’s been published, if it has been.
L. Sprague de Camp wrote in Lovecraft: A Biography that part of the Dark Swamp was submerged by the Ponaganset Reservoir a few years after the Lovecraft/Eddy trip — but judging by the modern satellite photography, trail maps, and the fact that Ponaganset Reservoir was completed in 1865, this cannot be correct.
Similarly shaky on certain points of fact may be Eddy’s recollections of his walks with Lovecraft. They can be found in The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces (Arkham House 1966) and reprinted in Lovecraft Remembered. The date of 1966 implies that Eddy was recalling events in the mid 1920s from the viewpoint of the mid 1960s? As I understand it some of these distant recollections of Lovecraft by Eddy, and especially by Eddy’s wife, should not be taken at face value.